For a time during Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway it looked as though the race would belong to NASCAR’s young guns.
Joey Logano led from the pole and 82 of the first 84 laps until being passed by Chase Elliott.
Elliott then took control building a lead of nearly three seconds at one point. He would go on to led the second most laps on the day, 106 of the 312. Once out of clean air however, Elliott began to fade. He finished the day 12th.
“Even the really good cars had a really hard time getting to somebody” Elliott said. “Track position was big as it always is, every week, everywhere we go and that will continue to be the case throughout the year. So, if you don’t have it at the end of the race it is going to be an uphill battle I feel like throughout this season. That is going to be a big trend.”
“Proud of our group,” he added. “We have fired off strong. We didn’t finish strong today, but I’m happy about how we started the season and the runs we’ve had. Nice to win a stage and get a point towards the champion this year, which is big. Those stage wins are going to be really important come time the playoffs start. I’m excited.”
Elliott grabbed the lead on the outside of a three-way battle for the top spot. It was a heart stopping move that saw Elliott emerge with the lead.
“Just momentum,” Elliott said. “Just had momentum and basically knew that if you fall back in line second you are probably not going to pass them. You have to be night and day better than somebody to get by them under green or they have to have a problem or something. That was the biggest thing was just realizing that hey you’ve got a lap, so you either get the lead then or you don’t. Fortunately, we got it then, but didn’t keep it when it counted.”
Logano was in the center while Kyle Larson was on the inside. While Elliott faded near the end, Larson stayed near the front. On the final caution that set up a green-white-checkered flag finish, Larson was among the top five runners that came in for two tires. Larson was the first off pit road lining up fourth behind Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Martin Truex Jr.
On the restart, Newman powered ahead while Larson fought with Stenhouse. Larson was able to get by Stenhouse, but he ran out of time and settled for second as Newman celebrated the win.
“Dang it, I wish I wouldn’t have gotten sideways there in (Turns) 1 and 2,” Larson said, “And I would have stayed close enough to Newman and I probably would have got him down in (Turns) 3 and 4 coming to the white. You never know though. That’s how the races play out. Maybe I made a mistake there.”
Sunday’s finish marks the third time this season Larson has come home as the runner up.
“This one stings because I feel like I was in the best spot out of anybody there to line up fourth on two tires,” he added. “But, it’s really, really cool to be the point leader right now. That was a goal of mine going into today. So, thanks to everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing for all your hard work. We’ll hopefully continue to have this speed in our race cars and maybe close some of these races out.”